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The Rugged Road

Review Summary
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by: Theresa Wallach
ISBN: 0953509826
Dimensions (in cm): 24x16x13
Publisher: Panther Publishing, 2001
150 pages, B&W Photos and Illustrations
Available From: Panther Publishing (UK) for £16.00; or with VHS Video £28.00 and with NTSC Video £32.45.

I’ll have to agree with the summary of this book printed on the back cover: “this is quite simply the most amazing motorcycle journey ever told and a revelation to today’s traveler”.

I have no idea in the world why this book isn’t better known, not only in the world of motorcycles but with adventure lovers everywhere.

Talk about adventure!  Think about the guts, skill, bravery and determination it took for two women to ride an early 1930’s, 600cc Panther motorcycle with a custom-fitted sidecar and a trailer through the entire length of Africa — in 1934!

And they didn’t take the straightest route, either. They went from Algiers, through the desert, to Kano, Nigeria, then east to Kampal in Uganda, to Nairobi, then down to Victoria Falls, Pretoria and on down to Cape Town!

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Sound exciting?  Well how about this — they did it without GPS (of course), telephones, a sextant or even a compass!  For 7,500 miles!

Motorcyclist or not, The Rugged Road is a must read. Theresa Wallach must be one of the least-known but most influential motorcyclists ever. Born in England, she came to America in 1947 and imported motorcycles and taught motorcycle safety. She was one of only three women to have lapped the old Brooklands circuit at over 100 MPH.  She also held a degree in engineering and worked as a dispatch rider and engineer in World War II.

Wallach was a female pioneer to be sure; much like Fay Taylour, a heroine of another type, as we discovered in our review of what could be considered as a companion book to this one, Fay Taylor: Queen of Speedway, another Panther Publications book that has been brought to life from obscurity for our reading pleasure.

Her parents were aghast at her love of motorcycles and only discovered that Wallach actually owned one when she became tired of hiding it and finally parked it in the garden for all to see. The Africa trip was decided on a lark, when Wallach’s friend Florence Blenkiron was trying to figure out how to get to South Africa in 1934.

This was during the era of a colonial Africa that was much different than today. And it wasn’t much earlier that most people thought only a camel was suitable for crossing the northern African deserts. It wasn’t until just 1933 that a car was used to access these areas. The motorcycle trip was to be the very first time for a two-wheeled vehicle to travel the entire length of the continent.

This book was almost not to be — Wallach was in her late 80’s when she started the final manuscript, and she died at age 90 before the book was sent to a publisher. Great thanks goes to Barry M. Jones, whose hard work put together all the missing pieces for the final version.

There’s actually a companion video for the book; I haven’t seen it but it’s a 35 minute silent film taken directly from 16mm movies shot by Theresa Wallach during the adventure.

This is certainly one of the most interesting historical motorcycle books any of us have seen at webBikeWorld. It’s available at Motorsport Publications in the U.S.A. for $29.95, which is a bargain because I’ve seen original editions listed for as much as $145.00 in antique bookstores. This is a great story that I bet not many motorcyclists are aware of, and it’s highly recommended!

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The wBW Rare Motorcycle Book Review Series:  Grace and Grit: Motorcycle Dispatches From Early Twentieth Century Women  |  Triumph Bonneville: Portrait of a Legend  |  60 Years of MotoGP  |  Hold ON! by Stan Dibben  |  Classic Motorcycling: A Guide for the 21st Century  |  The Rugged Road by Theresa Wallach  |  Exotic Motorcycles by Vic Willoughby  |  Fay Taylour – Queen of Speedway  |  Fifteen Times by Giacomo Agostini  | Historic Racing Motorcycles, Famous Racing Motorcycles and Built for Speed by John Griffith  |  Great Motorcycle Legends by Richard Renstrom  |  Bahnstormer by L.J.K. Setright  |  British Motorcycles of the 1930’s  |  Tuning for Speed by Phil Irving  |  Café Racers by Mike Clay  |  Tuning for Speed by Phil Irving  |  Bill Lomas: World Champion Road Racer  |  More wBW Book Reviews  |  wBW Book Review Ratings

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